aka Simone


USA, 2002. Rated PG-13. 117 minutes.

Cast: Al Pacino, Catherine Keener, Evan Rachel Wood, Jason Schwartzman, Winona Ryder, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Jay Mohr, Elias Koteas (uncredited), Rachel Roberts (credited as Simone), Daniel von Bargen
Writer: Andrew Niccol
Music: Carter Burwell
Cinematographer: Derek Grover, Edward Lachman
Producer: Andrew Niccol
Director: Andrew Niccol


Grade: B- Review by Francis Nicole Rogers

The Truman Show writer Andrew Niccol, now writer/director of Simone, has a rather interesting world view. Apparently we humans care nothing more than for perfection, and will blur the lines between truth and fiction, morality and immorality, just to achieve it. Children are genetically customized in Gattaca for the sake of having a perfect human race; a human being is born and reared live on television in The Truman Show to create the perfectly entertaining show; and now, a perfect star is digitally created in Simone. Simone seems timely in an era of cinema where computer generated images are quickly replacing good old-fashioned hand-made effects. The premise, however, isn' t to satirize the dependency on computer generated images, but to satirize star power. The days when the producers and the directors controlled and created the stars, days that ultra artistic director Viktor Taransky (Al Pacino, who appeared previously this year in Insomnia) yearns for, are long gone, now replaced by a time in which stars control not just their own careers, but the studios as well. Viktor now finds that his career is no longer determined by the quality of his films, but the names of the stars who are in them. Where is Viktor to go when his pet project is squashed because his star actress (Winona Ryder) walks off? No actress, not even newcomers never before seen on the screen, will allow themselves to star in Viktor's film after his failure is publicized. When it seems he'll never be able to get back on his feet again, Al Pacino at work with SimoneViktor receives a revolutionary computer program from a recently deceased technological madman (Elias Koteas, uncredited).

Viktor, still living in his idealized version of what Hollywood should be, quickly takes to the computer program (all too quickly, and off camera, might I add) first in hopes to replace his actress and save his film, then to prove to Hollywood that the director can still make the star. Of course we all know that, created or no, the star is still the superpower of Hollywood. It's always been that way, even in the days when the stars were fabricated by the studios, because it's just the stars that the general audience cares about. Simone is never harsh in its criticism of star power. The fanciful hijinks of the characters may bring a smile to your face and a brief spell of laughter, but bitingly funny it never is.

Niccol has to be admired for his wild imagination to have come up with such an interesting concept as the one in Simone. His execution, however, leaves much to be desired. Too soon does the movie plunge into the main action of the story, leaving little room for development. I would have loved to see all of Viktor's motives before he used the program. I would have loved to see how Viktor went about creating Simone. Niccol, however, doesn't give us any of that information until after Simone is created, and even then the information is superficial. Inquisitive viewers will be unable to let themselves enjoy the movie because of the still lingering questions, and potentially funny concepts suffer because of it.

Still, in the face of all of its pacing and development problems, Simone remains a fairly entertaining movie. Some of the more technical aspects of the movie, including its score and the rich cinematography, are actually quite well done, and the performances are good enough to sustain the humor. Then again, something is odd about a movie in which Al Pacino, the Al Pacino, doesn't exactly stand out as one of the best in the cast, or on account that he's, well, Al Pacino. That's no matter. Simone is just one of those harmless, light movies you' d watch on a lazy afternoon, in no way shape or form resembling great art, but entertaining in its own right.

Review © September 2002 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images 2002 New Line Cinema. All Rights Reserved.

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